Jun 04

Building a house is a moving experience

Arnold Teague chuckles about years of building a home from his collection of scraps and memorabilia. ©Tony Hertz/Telegram-Tribune

Some stories almost tell themselves, they have a durable and classic form that has stood the test of time. One of the classic story forms is David and Goliath, the young nimble and smart upstart surprises the strong but inflexible giant, or the dreamer who finds whimsy in everyday tasks.

On July 19, 1980 Telegram-Tribune reporter Denise Caruso wrote about a house on the hill, and how it got there.

He just walks outside — and the past’s behind him

Arnold Tegue has a historical perspective with a view.
Thanks to a peculiarly effective combination of nostalgia and craftiness, the former schoolteacher-machinist has built a monument to his past. He’s living in it.
It sits high on the South Street Hill in San Luis Obispo, a house that’s a giant, windowed, steel-reinforced room made from bits and pieces and remnants and salvage — all the things that captured Teague’s thrift-minded fancy over the years.
After teaching industrial arts to high school students in Bakersfield, Woodland and San Luis Obispo, he started his own machine shop — aptly named Teague’s Machine Shop — in 1960. He married his wife Peggy in 1961 and when he sold his business in 1963 the decided to build their home on the hill.
They realized the only way they could afford it was to make it out of scrap material.
The frame was already complete when the city stopped construction.
“We weren’t very careful about getting the permit,” Peggy said. “He started building without it. They stopped us for about a year because they said the plans weren’t up to code. We tried to correct what was wrong but they wouldn’t okay it. We got the impression it was because it wasn’t a wooden house.
“When we realized we weren’t going to be able to afford all the improvements we left (the planning department), sat in our car and said, ‘What are we going to do now?’ We thought about moving to Australia but decided not to.
“Then we remembered that part of our land wasn’t inside the city limits and we went to the county to show them our plans. In 48 hours we had building permits.”
However, the skeleton-house was already on city property. Enter the Teague ingenuity.

Arnold Teague and friends dragged Teague's home to be up a 25 percent grade in 1963 as seen in this Tribune photo.

He borrowed steel beams and rollers from the people who bought his machine shop and attached them to the house’s framework.
With the added tug of a boom truck, he and friends began dragging it along the 300 feet that would put it onto county land. Like the old technique of log rolling, they’d cut the beams and move them to the front to give the winch a “road” to move along.
Now, nearly 20 years later, the house stands as a salute to the Life-and-Times of Arnold and Peggy Teague.
“Everything is either part of our interests or something that’s happened to us,” said Peggy.
Sure enough, everything in sight seemed linked to the past and spruced up for the present.
The cement panels that fill the steel beamed walls are full of pot shards from Arizona, where Peggy taught Indian children before she married Arnold.
Wood from his father’s goat barn lines the outside walls. The sparkling, un-curtained panes of glass that open onto a dazzling view of San Luis Obispo once let the sun into his machine shop’s warehouse.
The gun-metal gray Oasis water cooler that cooled his thirst in that same warehouse now sits in thee kitchen, next to a burnished maple counter top. It once felt the sting of tennis shoes instead of cutting knives as the gym floor at old Camp Cook[e], now Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Their fireplace — complete with a grill that lowers to make it a barbecue pit — was made from windowsills from the Santa Maria school system, iron work from Teague’s shop when the federal government was still subsidizing the schools.
The hood over his stove used to be a storage tank for chicken feed.
In the bathroom, a washing machine water mixer has replaced standard faucets. Under the counter is a stool Teague made from his father’s old hand drill. On the door is a string-drawn pulley that attaches to Peggy’s dress zippers when Arnold’s not around to do the deed. It even has a leather-gloved hand that pats her fanny when the fastener reaches its zenith.
Lamps made of cooking pots and net floats, clocks that seem to defy gravity, railings made of whalebone, doors from old post offices and Berkemeyer’s old meat market — the list of his projects goes on and on.
Teague’s modus operandi could be termed a recycling of memories of simply cheap. But when asked how he got smart enough to figure out the intricacies of scavenging junk into useful, beautiful objects, Teague had a different idea.
“I was just too lazy to work hard,” he said with a chuckle.

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  3. Carnegie Library the first public library building in San Luis Obispo
  4. Building the McPhee University Union
  5. One room school house in Creston